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Undecided 44%
Elizabeth Warren22%
Joe Biden14%
Bernie Sanders8%
Pete Buttigieg6%

Thu Sep 5, 2019, 04:58 AM


Column: Medical bankruptcy is an American scandal -- and that's not debatable

You’ve got to hand it to Sen. Bernie Sanders for his ability to keep hot-button issues in the forefront of the presidential race.

The latest example is his assertion, made at least twice in the last month, that medical bills drive 500,000 Americans into bankruptcy every year. The Washington Post’s fact-checker column examined the numbers and concluded that Sanders deserved “three Pinocchios” for the statement, which means the Post found it “mostly false” and that Sanders was, basically, lying.

The Post blundered, as the authors of the study on which Sanders based his claim point out. In the real world, Sanders’ assertion that “500,000 Americans will go bankrupt this year from medical bills” is “mostly true.” Medical bankruptcy is an American scandal, and possibly even more common than he or the study’s authors calculate.


What’s clear about the financial consequences of the American system of healthcare financing, which places much of the burden on households, is that they’re widespread and scandalous. One signpost is the rise of crowdfunding campaigns via platforms such as GoFundMe to raise money for families facing medical bills. In a civilized country, public appeals for help with medical bills shouldn’t exist. Yet GoFundMe reports that it hosts more than 250,000 medical campaigns per year, raising more than $650 million a year.


Unquestionably, the individual burden of medical costs in the U.S. can be unsupportable and, in the richest country in the world, should be unnecessary. Sanders and Warren are right to point the finger at a dysfunctional healthcare financing system. Those who say things aren’t that bad are wrong; it’s worse. Debating whether the number of Americans forced into bankruptcy by medical debt is 500,000 or some other figure is nitpicking, and woefully beside the point. What everyone knows is that the threat is bad enough, and it can strike at anyone.

If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:

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